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The Borehamwood Times abroad Day Three
The last day in Offenburg and it was my turn to emerge half asleep and almost late, getting up, dressed, breakfasted and checked out of my room all in half an hour.
While the early risers went to church – the priest was very welcoming and knew Dominic McKenna of St Teresas Church in Borehamwood – I wandered through the deserted Sunday streets of the town, the only sound the joyous ringing of church bells and the click of my heels on the cobbled streets.
Klaus Teufel of Offenburg's twin town association is a train enthusiast and he insisted we made the short journey to the town of Gengenbach, where we would spend the day, by train.
We assembled at the station and all of us were very excited as the double-decker train pulled in and we climbed to the top deck for the seven minute journey.
On the western edge of the Black Forest, Gengenbach is a town straight out of German folklore or fairytale.
Romantic, half timbered houses, each with their coal cellar outside the front, are connected by steep cobbled streets. Outside the Rathaus, which doubles as an advent calendar, a brass band played traditional tunes.
Guided by Beata Teufel, we meandered through the picturesque streets that were unchanged since the 17th century.
A heritage preservation order had been placed on the town, meaning that although it had plenty of mobile phone shops and other facilities, these were artfully concealed behind the old facades.
The town still retained its medieval walls, and we climbed up onto the city gates, above which a metal and wood portcullis still hung – trying not to push pots of precarious geraniums on the people below.
Afterwards we dropped in on a Benedictine monastery on the edge of the town, through a herb garden smelling of lavender and mint, into a church where every square inch was painted with scenes from the bible.
Then back to the main street for lunch, stepping over a small stream from a burst pipe.
“They have Affinity Water here too,” Gill joked.
During lunch in a traditional German restaurant, Andrew thanked Klaus and Beata for their hospitality in giving so much of their time to show us around.
Speaking on behalf of herself and Clive, Elaine thanked the Rotary Club and the Teufels for a “wonderful” time.
Later, as we stood in the town square eating ice cream, before starting our journey home, I asked each of the Rotarians about what they took from the trip.
Cynthia said: "Everything was far beyond our expectations.
“I have been overwhelmed by the hospitality we have been shown by everyone, and the support, friendship and fellowship.
“When I became Rotary Club President I had the objective of building links with Rotary Clubs abroad, I can tick that box off now.
“I’d like to thank Andrew and BETTA for their help and everyone else who made this wonderful trip possible.”
Klaus and Beata said how “good” it had been to have us here, adding it had been their “pleasure” to look after us.
Beata added: “Many people think we don’t need town twinning, but through it we get to know other people’s culture, personalities and lives.”
Clive commented it was a “fantastic trip”, adding, the only challenge now was how Borehamwood could return the excellent hospitality offered by the Offenburg Rotarians.
Andrew too commented he had been very pleased with the way the trip had gone.
He said: “This is the Rotary Club’s first visit, and I’m very pleased BETTA was able to facilitate it and help them form links.”
Sasha and Barbara too commented on the excellent hospitality they had received, praising the beautiful places they had visited, adding their favourite part of the trip was last night’s meal in the castle.
Nick and Gill thanked Klaus and the Rotary Club for their kindness, and the way the trip had been adapted to suit the less mobile.
They added: “The important thing has been being together here. The town and its inhabitants have been so welcoming and we’ll certainly come back as friends.”
The trip far exceeded my expectations too, and I felt very privileged to be able to visit Offenburg and experience first-hand how Rotary Clubs can transcend the barriers of language and unite people across the world.
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